#106 Summer Evening

Summer evening.

A Maine beach, the slanted setting sun’s rays highlighting parts of the shoreline as it lowers in the western sky. The last hours of the daylight fading, the tanned bodies holding out, still savoring the last moments of the day at the beach. Picnics eaten, the last games of catch being played, the dogs romping in the water (only allowed at day’s beginning and day’s end) their owners relieved hoping all that running and playing means settled, sleep-filled nights.

Many couples walk at sunset along the hard packed sand, their pace a stroll at this hour unlike their earlier workouts. Skateboarders are still out on the road working their way around cars moving slowly, drivers gazing at the water, and surfers catch the last waves while they still have enough light to see them coming.

The gulls flap and circle looking for snacks before dark, hoping for discards, sandwich parts or soggy chips. Junk food addiction effects more than humans. 

Mostly, the little ones have been gathered, packed up and now fed, clean and sleepy, safely tucked in beds in rented spaces early enough to ensure tomorrow’s daybreak awakening. Is there anything more wonderful than watching children playing endlessly on a beach?

Arms flap trying to swat bugs away as the sun sinks and mosquitoes actively search for blood now the heat has backed off. Beach chairs, backpacks, water bottles and slogan covered, chocked-full bags of every description, soaked and gritty, draped over departing beach goer bodies. By tomorrow those wretched looking bags will be dry and ready to be filled, to head out again, each day repeating the pattern until departure day. The memories of sand and sun and water, laughter and sunblock, ocean dunks, salty water swallowed, and boogie board triumphs, these are the things we remember, what we hold close to our hearts.: vacation. Many months of photos  and reminiscing ahead, the knowledge of icy cold sand, horizontally blowing snow, and sparse, hungry birds remain unknown. Winter beaches are south not north, the feel slightly similar yet there is always something extra when it’s summer. 

#105 I Wake to the Stark Reality of This House

I wake to the stark reality of this house.

I wake to the sound of the ocean, the vast water capable of absorbing all of my tears yet never once softening–

That’s not the purpose of the ocean.

I wake to the stark reality of hard surfaces, of wood and glass that reverberate sound without absorption–

That’s not the purpose of wood nor glass.

I wake to the stark awareness of yet another day spent in my own company, another day with my thoughts as companions when I long for the warmth and comfort of friends or family–

That’s not the purpose of aloneness.

I wake to the stark hardness of political messaging that uses division and hate that tears at the fabric of my understanding of humanity–

That is not the purpose of humanity.

I wake to another day of stark being and hard reality as I long for the embrace of compassion, first for myself then radiating to all others, each of us waking to yet another day of trying to stay safe while struggling with isolation and wanting connections–

That is the purpose of compassion.

#104 Large and Small

Large and Small.

Mid-July afternoon. Ocean calm, waves as close to lapping the rocks as it’s ever going to get. Three kayakers offshore, not paddling, sitting still in the water. A few fishermen casting from the rocks. No working boats out on the water. Perfect conditions all.

The dorsal fin appears briefly, its dark presence coming out of the water, just fractional seconds of black movement, then quickly sliding beneath the water’s surface. A few moments later a longer glide, the fin followed by the arching back, higher out of the water this time, more seconds of dark, sleek, and smooth rising then quickly disappearing under the water. The excited catch in the throat, my first whale sighting of the year and the return of that wondrous affirmation of presence.  The whales come close at low tide, Minke and human fishermen both are seeking to fill their bellies from the the silver schools of fish who seem drawn to the just offshore water warmed now by a few days of Maine heat. The kayakers keep a respectful distance. What it is like to witness a whale from such a small craft at water’s level?

Two days ago I spotted the first Monarch butterflies flitting about the plants along the shore. Beautiful milkweed, the monarchs’ food of choice, has been bloomIng these past two weeks, enticing the butterflies. Conscientious gardeners have sown seeds as naturally occurring swath habitat has been gobbled up by humans not thinking of butterfly needs. How can anyone not long for the familiar black and orange wings looking like tiny,  moving, lead glass church windows?

The fleeting presence of these beautiful creatures so large, so small, watched for by searching eyes yet so easily missed by others close enough to see, yet remaining unaware. Moments of high summer swiftly passing, so ethereal,  a shimmer of presence, then vanishing. Butterflies float, seemingly  meandering from flower to flower, impossibly light creatures of air while the huge water world gliders, the dark shapes part the vast blue liquid then disappear into the depths. Each is a quick presence, a fleeting glimpse of other ways of being.

Summer on the edge of a vast ocean tugs at our spirit of mystery and wonder. What do we see? What do we miss seeing?

# 98 Blonde Curls

Blonde Curls.

Blonde Curls bouncing in the sparkling sun, a young man walks towards the waves, his body encased in black neoprene, a multicolored long board carried in capable arms, and at his side a lovely young woman similarly clad carries a plain white board walks with just a tad less swagger of confidence although her face is beaming the joy of beach promise on an early June afternoon.

The Lilacs are a bit past peak with the Bridal Veil Spirea coming into full flower. The beach roses started to bloom a few days ago, Rosa Rugosa, apparently an invasive species which sweetens the air. Close your eyes and sniff. You will know it is June by only your senses–the air with just a bit of chill even at low tide, the wafts of rose perfume edged with brine. I’ve been feeling the rhythms of air and warmth each day: an early morning high tide without a north wind will be the warmest part of the day right at water’s edge. As the tide moves in the breeze shifts, the result being a quick drop in air temperature and a reach for outerwear.  The early June ocean measures in the 50’s and an onshore breeze moving across the water means extra layers. In town or just a few miles inland, the sun bakes cars and people. A hot day! But out by the water mid- afternoon is often chilly especially at high tide.

June is the promise month, the month partners choose to mark a new life beginning in celebrations with family and friends. June also brings the contrasts in air and water temperature that creates the “marine layer”, i.e., fog. The chill and gloom of it near to the ground while just above there is haze and above that sun and warmth a just cause for running errands or an excuse to drive into town to get hot for a bit so to as to alter perspective when you return to the cool grayness. No air conditioning needed. It is possible to go through an entire June day wrapped in fog swirls. Dark horizon trees fade and turn pale in the almost-gloom. When horn starts blowing, it’s intervals either comfort or get on your nerves. So many visitors love this briny mist, the images on paint or paper or screens carried with love back home perhaps to hang on walls as far away reminders of a particular early coastal summer’s beauty.

Visitors return more timidly this June. Some beach houses stand empty and waiting. The Governor’s visitor’s requirement of a 14 day quarantine is still in effect. Some pay heed, others defy, some pretend this place is the same as always even when it’s not. The locals askance views of out of state license plates speak volumes: there is fear in the air mingled with nature’s June-ness. What might lurk in cars headed north besides happy tourists and their dollars?

Don’t we all want to escape to the beach, to shiver in the cold water, and fill our shoes with gritty sand? What we most seek is happy oblivion, a break from unknowns, laughter and sharing, ice cream and hugs, wet towels and fried seafood. This June everything is tinged with worry. Only the beach dogs raise their tails in joy, chase their balls on hard sand, loving you and this, the ocean at the beginning of summer, filled with promise and hope.

# 88 Sound

Sound.

The nights are never truly silent. Even during the most quiet time, when the tide is furthest out and the winds are calm, there is still the constant backdrop of waves colliding with rock. When the fog horn is not sounding, that is as silent as it gets. I would have thought that this sound would fade from constant awareness into backdrop as does a heartbeat or the sound of breath, but that’s not the case. 

These days of early spring are not silent either as the songbirds sing for mates and territory. But it is the absence of other sounds that holds my attention and gives awareness that not all is right in the world. 

The sound of pickup trucks in the driveway, saying soon the nearby restaurant will open for the season, is absent. The sounds of the school bus picking-up or letting-off neighborhood kids is absent as well as the occasional sounds coming from the closest yard when the boys are out there together letting off indoor steam. The sound of planes  in landing lineups overhead, preparing for delivery of their passengers is (nearly) absent. The diesel engine noise of lobster boats pulling traps is also nearly absent. The hearing evidence of human activity has faded to a whisper.

The sound of my own voice is also mostly absent. There are a few phone calls now and then, but not daily. Mostly there is quiet keying on the laptop or the phone, the silent greeting of words to check in with others and to pass along funny internet stuff. I am noticing we seem to fade in and out with one another, wanting to stay in contact yet there are days we seem to collectively withdraw just a little. 

The radio, often a prime source of sound, is only on occasionally; the news is grim and indeterminate, an anathema to the calm and peace possible when focus stays on light and clouds and water, when watching the Eiders transition from the great flock down to pairs as it’s unfolding day by day. There is spring work to be done, a new brood to make and raise and, although I suspect those things are far from silent, the duck sounds do not make it as far as the house. 

I feel a very particular kind of envy watching the birds going about their lives oblivious to our unfathomable human existence. I think of the times human actions have impacted theirs in devastating ways, but now there is only watching their movements while taking solace that the season is changing and (at least some) aspects of the world are still normal.

# 86 Grace

Grace.

Grace is present in our world. Grace does not show off. Grace does not strut, or bellow. Grace is subtle and you need to be paying attention to notice its presence in life’s daily moments.

The air had warmed but I failed to notice. I was busily occupied inside and let slip away the first above 60 degree day since last Fall without any awareness, nary an opened window or door, or a sniff of fresh air. But the night brought rain and the morning’s sun shone through nature-washed windows. The salt crud that had coated the window glass with an unwelcome frosting since last week’s high surf was erased and the morning light made the world fresh again. Stepping out on to the porch to feed the birds was entry into a new season. Yes, there would be more cold and mostly likely even snow, but the air had been gently rinsed and the smell in the day’s early air hinted of mud rather than ice.

All day the sun played out on the water ducking in and out behind the clouds. When it was out the water looked green, that wonderful gray-green with the iridescent sea-foam green sparkle as the top of each wave tipped over onto itself, the color I think is the most beautiful color on the planet. When the sun tucked behind the lofty, floating cloud puffs the water turned blue-gray, the color painters most often choose for seascapes. All day the cloud forms changed in dips and swirls and, later, gathering into small masses looking like mini storms  approaching, not serious but as teasers saying “but I could if I wanted to…”

Such a simple day suggesting in-between season possibilities, a day of grace and beauty disguised as ordinary.

# 82 Out There

Out there.

When I meet people and the question about where I live comes up the inevitable words “I love it out there!” is the most likely response. Last night driving home after dark from a rare evening out I, too, felt like I was driving “out there” along the only route that passes through town, in then out again, turning a few miles later onto the road that runs out when you get to the sea. A map, Google or printed, shows a jut of land water to the left and in front of you. Aerial photos show the dark blue ocean with a brown-grey mass of rock trimming the edges, and a somewhat small cluster of houses set just back from the rocks.

I woke from a dream where I was traveling to where I lived before I came here. I opened my eyes to my current life, seeing the vivid horizontal streak of sky orange before sunrise and with it an underlayer of cherry red that only occasionally appears. I could feel the change from my dream-body to the waking present where a jagged dancing energy flowed just under the skin of my chest, realizing that feel is a near constant presence when I am here. I wonder about that red, the color of alarm, danger, excitement, passion. It seems to pair with that jagged edgy feel inside me.

The first moments I spent in this house I sensed the possibility of a vast presence. It remains to this day, as unnamed now as it was then, sometimes feeling like a challenge and sometimes, a mere unsettled sense, of nearly constant unease, perhaps and ebb and flow of a rhythm that matches the intensity of the waves and the wind.

I imagine living on a pleasant street in a tidy neighborhood thinking there I would not feel this underlying red, this unsettledness that is so constant. I am not referring to life’s ups or downs, the troubled times or restful ones. I am attempting to describe an existential energy present, I believe, where the vastness of the ocean pushes its might up against solid rock, opposing forces giving off energy release that is palpable even if all seems calm, or as calm as the ocean ever gets.

What images form in your mind when you think of the word “retirement”? I had thought it would be a time of rest, of unstressed  activity with time to savor. Instead, I landed in an energy vortex where beauty is a constant but ease is not. This is a stark awareness on a minute-by-minute basis. I am not attempting to describe emotions or feelings. The backdrop roar of even a fairly calm low tide is in my ears as I write. It is the constant presence of releasing energy. This truly is “out there”.

# 80 The Range of Beauty

The Range of Beauty.

Many of us in cold climates grumble about January: it’s long, it’s cold, it’s dark, and worst of all, it is a very long way from spring.

First there was an odd warm spell followed by a falling-in-clumps day of unserious snow, one of those pretty snows like the lazy flakes depicted on holiday cards. By afternoon the glop was present most everywhere with cleaned up roadways and good going. Then the wind picked up in late afternoon and by nightfall the temperatures plummeted and the glop froze solidly into ice ruts. By morning it was 11 degrees with 40 mph wind gusts. It became one of those winter trials where something–the car, the house–something, will break down because that is just the way it works when weather goes to extremes. There were repair trucks in driveways fixing the (most likely) expensive problems.

In a very typical New England winter weather pattern the cold was broken a day or so later when a snowstorm moved through, warming the air and dumping ten or so inches of pristine white over everything. The sun rose brilliantly in the early morning, the storm having moved north. The colors of the ocean and the sky and the light were exquisite and constantly shifting  the whole day.

Silvers, blues, traces of pink here and there, with tinges of green as the waves gently broke on shore, and a shining band of light on the horizon, like a magic highlighter pulling your eyes to the dancing light of that line of shimmer.

My thoughts turned to the beautiful summer houses on the shores of the Atlantic, empty, their owners far away in warmer climes. The measurement of abode when one has choices are often based on “climate” usually meaning temperature. We humans don’t care for being cold (many of us but not all.) But today’s winter beauty was every bit as glorious as a peak summer’s day. It might have even exceeded it, in the stark light and sparkling white. A gull lifted off the rocks, just as it would do in the summer, only the backdrop to the flight was gray and black and white, the colors of the bird itself.  The symmetry was precise and cause for a gasp of recognition and elation. This exquisite day was missed by those who were elsewhere.

I sat on the porch warmed to 70 degrees by the sun, my heavy wool sweater discarded temporarily on the floor. When the sun slides down under the horizon at day’s end the sweater will be needed again, but for this afternoon of light and beauty there is only “Thanks”.

# 75 December

December.

For most of my adulthood December has been the most difficult month. I made good use of the cold for much of my life; both ice skating and skiing were passions at least until motherhood happened. With it came an awareness of responsibility that made flying down mountains with abandon not quite as much fun. That happens to some of us and not to others. My early years were spent in very cold places, mostly along the Canadian border of NY and VT where -20 and -30 were normal. After I left VT my blood started thinning and I started getting really cold even when it was way warmer than that.

December’s emphasis on Christmas was often fraught, manifesting through various layers and reasons. I’d separated from my Christian routes before college had ended. Losing my married family then later, my parents, sealed the difficulties that Christmas held. I always wanted Christmas to hold the magic it did in childhood. One year when I was around ten, a stuffed poodle  with a collar and chain leash was left between the front doors of our house. I was too old to believe in Santa by then but a bit of magic returned as I never learned who gave me that toy. I still want magic to happen. Don’t you?

I continue to be more than a little surprised that I now live in Maine, a place I link to cold far more intensely than I did in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont. But this is southern Maine and that is the remote north of Vermont which implies a compensation that I don’t actually feel.

Now my belief is the cold is actually less of a problem than December’s darkness, that long going-into-the-tunnel feel which begins in November and doesn’t let up until the longer, deeper shadows of the trees become noticeable in February, proof the sun’s coming back.

I’ve heard grumbles about December’s “holidays” from many others, about the “It’s over” sigh of relief which comes on January 2nd. After that it’s a matter of hunkering down and making the best of it until spring is actually felt. Up here that can happen around the end of June, if we’re lucky, or July, if we aren’t. The cold ocean keeps warmth at bay in Spring (but whoopee for those October days joyously–unexpectedly–balmy).

If I could stay focused, which is damn hard while constantly shivering, I’d realize how much I appreciate winter’s quieter rhythms, its long stretches of silence and peace, the days of tea and books stereotypes which ARE real but fleeting when old bones sit hard in cold ache. But the blue-white days, the sparkles of fresh snow, watching the Eiders, and the shore rocks empty of walkers, with these come balance and reminders to stay present and grateful.

# 68 Winter’s Comin’

 Winter’s Comin’.
The signs of winter are everywhere except in the warmish 50 degree temperatures soon to succumb to the plunge below freezing. Snow is in the forecast for the end of the week. Most all the leaves have been ripped from their hosts; the clam and lobster shacks are cleaned and buttoned up.  The charming, tradition-soaked inns with their fading verandas and wicker settees tucked in lovely spots by the sea , have been emptied, the last hangers-on gone until next season. 
 
Dead and dying flowers and herbs have been dumped from their pots, frost already having browned their edges. The sad, salt-air-damaged porch chairs have been stuffed into bags and bungeed together on the porch, the last of summer things tucked under while snow shovels now lean against the porch wall sprung from summer banishment in the back corner of the garage. The fireplace, newly repaired, has a full tank of propane. [Note to self: never, ever, let a tank run dry nor let the pilot light go out.] The whopping repair bill’s now paid, the “ouch” a learning tool.
 
Summer’s storms, no match for the gales that blow come Fall, have passed and the beginnings of winter surf rises and pounds. The first seasonal nor’easter, come and gone, the tree death evident on every road, limbs and branches piled in front of houses awaiting town pickup. Fresh chainsaw tracks on stumps of ancient trees, their exposed rotting cores announce clearly why they went down in the ferocious wind.
 
Gloom sets in, clouds and fog hanging low for days. It’s a fight to keep emotions from matching the skies. The hard, red flu shot site on my upper arm  has softened and stopped hurting. Long ago an earlier me anticipated winter with glee. Now cold means aching joints and shivers.
 
This season’s shift comes with force where subtlety would do. Winter barges in shoving Fall aside like an overblown bully. We can batten down the hatches or leave the stuff outside to see if it makes it through. My  attempts for order over chaos don’t represent my mindset, so filled with dread for what lies ahead.

#67 Before Sunrise

Before Sunrise.

To have risen at seven this morning you would have awakened to a pale blue-gray sky, striated clouds with glints of soft yellow light peeking through, the water moving from the north, a dark steely-blue palate of shiver.

More than an hour before, the entire sky was a rage of color, not a strip or streak but the entire sky pulsing with an intensity of Tutankhamun gold and yellows. The stretched horizontal clouds over the water were nearly black, further emphasizing the brilliant gold of the sky, the water not yet illuminated enough to be even noticed. There was no room for thought, only my still body and my astonished eyes moving back and forth across the expanse. Nothing but color flooding all other senses.

The movement of the sun still below the horizon means light changes measured by seconds, layers of light folding over itself. Just above the horizon, a long wide ribbon of cranberry appears. Not red. Precisely cranberry, a cranberry specifically distinct like out of a Crayola box. Then ever so slowly the cranberry becomes cherry, then morphs into pink and orange, blending like the sounds of flutes and oboes rising beneath a symphony dominated by strings.

The sun moves up to the horizon, its rise dissipating the intensity of colors as the strength of its pinpoint light washes the sky. Where earlier the colors of the entire sky had throbbed now the me-me-me of the sun’s round dominance overtakes everything.

There is no photograph. Limitations of the camera could not capture the scale, vibratory color, mass, or intensity. A photograph would allow the “Oh, a sunrise” to replace the beyond-belief presence of that sky, the colors still permeating my bones, my soul.

# 66 Higgins Beach: A Photo Essay

 

Higgins Beach.

A nor’easter moved off Cape Cod never reaching Maine while the surf from the storm pounded the more northern shores for three days. The waves, not large enough to be frightening, delighted visitors and residents alike and the surfers on Higgins Beach finally got some long rides. As the light on day four left the sky, all was right in the world.

 

 

 

 

 

 

#65 Sound and Silence

Sound and Silence.

It’s still too dark to see much outside but the roar of the surf says the predicted gale has moved up off the coast. Some weeks ago a marine forecast for a hurricane that moved north but stayed off shore, referred to predicted high surf as “large long period southeast swells”.

The awareness of big waves builds overnight, the human body conscious of the increasing roar; roiled waters are never quiet. It will be loud the rest of the day and, with this particular storm, loud for the next few days, a backdrop sound filling the house, shaking the windows, tilting pictures in frames on the walls, and rattling glassware in cupboards.

Storms bring intense sound even when the day is absent of speech. There are a few days like this each month, where from morning until night I do not speak out loud with anyone. Keyboards allow for silent communication while radio talk continues until the endless political blather wears down my spirit. With a click, I revert to the natural sounds around me.

Such days are mostly spent in silence but it is never soundless by the sea.

# 63 Waterfront

 

#63  Waterfront

There are so many different ways to love oceans. Have you experienced the feel of a small, working harbor in the early morning, both moving and moored boats filling in all the “spaces”,  serenity and bustle at the same time?

Do you love coves, tucked or nestled, perhaps just a tad claustrophobic, and almost always sweet? Surely you’ve been in ports, chalked full of sea commerce, definitely not conducive to exploration via kayak.; tankers, container and cruise ships, and the myriad varieties of vessels that hunt for food from the ocean, going in and out of busy, deep channels. 

Beaches are the places loved by most of us, especially those with hard, good-for- walking sand that stretch for miles, our wearied nerves soothed by the rhythmic waves, our eyes forever searching for discarded gems left behind by tides. We dive or walk into the waters, warm or not-so-warm, tingling, always slightly a tad wary, wondering about those things that call the beckoning water home.

Beloved are rocky shores feeling, and sounding, quite different from beaches, the rhythms more pressing and louder, the walking more of a challenge. They, too, hold discarded tidal gems but those are often much harder to get to and almost always far more battered.

And then there are glorious marshes. whose surface seems so placid, the teeming life and death struggles in them more apparent to those long on patience and having magnified lenses. Those beautiful marshes, bulldozed, maligned, abandoned, then filled in, misused and misunderstood by humans for centuries, we humans not knowing them for the sources of life they contain. Houses beside marshland are every bit as in danger as those perched perilously close to shore; the steady, quieter rise of water as capable of tearing houses apart as crashing waves. 

We flock to bays, capes, peninsulas, islands, estuaries, open ocean waters, wanting to feel life by the vastness of water wildness. We are drawn by ocean and the range of experience we find in its proximity. This continues even while we monitor our screens showing videos and photos illustrating its destructive powers. Hurricanes seem to be growing larger, the death tolls rising, the property destruction catastrophic. Will the force of these storms drive us humans away from the solace or retreat we feel or once felt, the pull of life beside ocean waters beaten by the reality of no-way-to survive a Cat Five bearing down on its next location? Ours?

#61 Seasonal Adjustments

Seasonal Adjustments.

The newly enlarged flock of Common Eider ducks have been swimming in a sort-of formation, back and forth, looking like morning and afternoon drills to teach this year’s hatchlings proper Eider Behavior. Twice yesterday this close-to-shore “parade” was mirrored by a fairly large group of kayakers who, a bit further out, paddled up then back, parallel but distanced from the Eiders. From my window perch it seemed as if the kayakers were also in training, learning proper Kayaker behavior perhaps. For the Eiders their formation swimming is most likely based on survival tactics for the rough winter waters to come, that time of year the kayakers are absent. 

Polar fleece and sweaters are now preferred afternoon apparel of the tourists. Down the road, die hard beach lovers sit wrapped and shivering, in 60 degree temperatures as the sun sets. It’s easy to visualize the glee of Native Northerners as they reach for their jackets; finally, the temperature is reasonable and the roads will soon again be drivable in the ways that seem Maine appropriate. It isn’t as if tourists are exactly unwanted. It’s more like the natives (and not-so-native year rounders) are weary by August’s end. Perhaps their longing is for a return to stretches of water unblemished by the presence of too many humans. Perhaps they are now able to return to the clam shacks for the preferred Maine cuisine of fried sea-somethings served with coleslaw and fries because now it might be possible to find a parking place and a table.

Many summer birds have all ready headed south. There are egrets still out in the marshes, their beautiful white bodies so visible in flight or on the ground but their days here are numbered. The marsh grasses now are topped by wheat colored seed pods as the marshes transform from lush summer greens into varying shades of russet.

A dear friend pointed out how odd it is for someone (me) who hates the cold to live this far North and the simple answer is “economics” but I dread shivering for next ten months, chilled to the bone until once again the tourists and the birds flock back to this wonderful place.

#60 Human Behavior

Human Behavior.

It seems that many communities are experiencing the upsurge of vacation and temporary rentals. I understand what may be a need to capitalize on owning a home and maximizing opportunities to pay for upkeep, taxes, repairs etc. Americans in particular have strong feelings when it comes to their private property and their rights to do with it as they will. We are beginning to feel the limits of such thinking even though it shows no sign of decline.

Close to the water this temporary rental trend is booming. When I first came here there was one identifiable house that was a temporary rental. Since then the house next door seems to be sometimes occupied by the owners and sometimes by temporary others. Another house across the street has been vacated by the owner and now other cars come and go suggesting this has also become a rental. Now it begins to feel that every house out here may be under threat of come-and-go occupants as opposed to those of us who own or rent year round as permanent residents.

What the owners of rentals cannot see is that the sense of community is diminished as come-and-go occupants move in and out of rental houses. When we are in neighborhoods where houses are physically close to one another, such as close-to-the-water houses often are, we full-time occupants become accustomed to the rhythms of those next door; we know when and which lights will be on, along with other signs of their lifestyles. We know which of our windows need curtains and which can do without. Without undue intrusions or nosiness we have a sense of normalcy, of timing and sounds from the houses around us. Temporary or vacation occupants change all of that, indeed the behaviors of the occupants of temporary rentals may be quite different from what they may be when they are at home: “What happens in Vegas stays  in Vegas?” Not so much in Maine or elsewhere (and perhaps not even in Vegas.)

This past week a fortress wall, 8 feet tall and solidly wooden, went up between a resident’s house and the next door temporary rental. The fence’s size, solidness, and presumable price must have been serious considerations but it leaves no doubt to anyone passing that there was an issue present. The messaging seems clear.

This is not the first time I have lived in a destination vacation community, places where the yearly rhythms of swell and absence can be challenging and interesting all at once. Tourists are usually happy humans and their presence can be uplifting. In the winter we human residents dart quickly from our houses to our cars and the movement on the rocks is only by Eiders ducks or Gulls but in the summer excited children, families, visitors from far flung places climb up and down those rocks with gleeful shouts, posing for photos, delighting in unfamiliar sights and sounds of the waves and shore.

The problem with being a tourist is that we humans seem to carry our at-home behavior to places where what we know does not necessarily apply. Example: small children often zoom perilously close to water’s edge while their parents, thinking they are being attentive and responsible, watch from a distance.  Those who are new to ocean fail to understand the dangers of incoming tides or the possibility of a rogue wave; fail to understand the impossibility of extricating oneself from falling into powerful jaggedly rock-edged water themselves, much less the impossibility of extracting a small child from such water. Many times I have watched delighted, squealing children close enough to breaking waves to be getting soaked, while I utter prayers for it not be necessary for me to dial 911. Example: tourist traffic  disregard of really important speed limits and the danger of driving behaviors inappropriate to the vacation location. I once witnessed Midwest drivers doing 75 mph on twisting remote roads of Yellowstone National Park and in that same park I drove behind a rental RV scraping rock formations along every curve of a narrow roadway. What works on the NJ Turnpike will not do on a winding, tight hill road where children ride their bikes and visiting drivers think the cautionary speed limit does not apply to them.

The question is how do we, all of us, open our vision, expand our awareness, alter our experiential behaviors to be in synch with our temporary, new location? As visitors, how can we be appropriately adaptive in unfamiliar places?

Note: The photo used here implies only the joy that tourists often show visiting this beautiful shore. It is not in any way a criticism of the subjects photographed.

#57 The Gift of Whale

The Gift of Whale.

Up before six this morning the sun, already above the horizon, was behind clouds so I saw it break through sending rays of light into the day’s beginning. Shortly after I looked out to see the whale fin glide gracefully above the water, the sleek dark gray back a moving arc in the water, so fluid and so fleeting.

Minke whale or whales have been feeding off this section of coast since late July. There is no predictability that I can pinpoint other that I’ve seen them at low tide and in mornings, afternoons, or even late evenings when there is fairly calm water. I only saw this morning’s whale once but I’m sure it was out there for a bit.

I’ve only seen the whale or whales when boats aren’t present. I wonder if they pick their times to come in close when they have the water to themselves.  

Human reactions to whale sightings seem to have the same quality regardless of the age of the human: Enthrallment. Pure joy. Awe. I find I look at the stretch of water differently when I know they are out there. There is a sense of mystery and magnificence when whale is present. Being able to see them ethically from shore, not chasing after them with whale boats (which I did long ago), is a gift that catches one’s soul in each and every sighting. 

*Note: No whale photo of course, as just catching a glimpse of them with the naked (bespectacled) eye is fleeting at best and sighting them with the camera nearly impossible, at least for me from this vantage point.

# 49 Lull of the Roar

Lull of the Roar.

Awake at nearly 4 a.m. the sound of the ocean is steadily rhythmic and only moderately loud. Tide cycles always affect sound but this time I am not sure whether it’s incoming or outgoing, but I am sure of the regularity of the repeating sound telling me there are rollers out there. And yes, it is like a heart rhythm. And yes, it is incredibly soothing. Despite most of our preconceptions, “regular” and “soothing” are also relativity rare descriptions for open ocean locations where water meets rock rather than sand..

Lying here in the semi-dark I can feel the peace embedded in the sound and how the sound of the ocean is as important as the look of it. Often called “primal” or “the sound we heard in the womb” (which always felt a bit overly dramatic to me) I can  feel this rhythm in my being: a rare lull bringing deep peace.

 

 

This is what the measurement/science of it looked like:
From the National Buoy Data Center:
Weather Conditions:     [3:50 am EDT 09-May-2019]
Wind: N (350°), 8 kts (14 kph)
Gust: 10 kts (18 kph)
Seas: 3.0 ft (0.9 m)
Peak Period: 11 sec
Pressure: 30.34 inHg (1027.3 mb) rising
Air Temp: 47 °F (8 °C)
Water Temp: 47 °F (9 °C)
Dew Point: 31 °F (-0 °C)

Wave Summary:            [4:00 am EDT 09-May-2019]
Swell: 3.0 ft (0.9 m)
Period: 11.4 sec
Direction: ESE
Wind Wave: 0.7 ft (0.2 m)
Period: 2.4 sec
Direction: N

#44 Sun Kind of Wonderful

Sun Kind of Wonderful.

Spring on this northern coast is a long, tough haul that tears at my spirit and vexes my body, both desperate for sunlight and warmth. Inland the brown earth warms but in northern coastal latitudes such as Maine’s the vast cold ocean warms more slowly than land. Where contrasting temperatures-land versus water-are greatest-fog rolls in day after endless day. Getting through winter seems easier than slogging through March, April, May, June. 

Every February I fall for my false internal dialogue telling me warmth is coming in a land where spring is (literally) painful or as someone said to me: “…non-existent. We don’t have spring in Maine.”  Elsewhere, temperatures rise, flowers bloom, trees burst out in leaves, but out beside the cold ocean the gray clouds hang in clumps. There are endless days and nights of pounding surf and days of longing for sunlight on bare skin. Mysteriously, brown grass eventually turn green, flowering things bloom, trees get leaves but all of this happens without much warming. When the temperature hits 60 people in shorts and tank tops pop up like human tulips. I get it, 60 degrees means it’s summer. 

Let me grumble. I wasn’t raised in this climate and I brought my memories and expectations of orchards in bloom and soft spring warmth with me when I moved here. Getting through spring’s four months, my former favorite months of the year, is anything but easy. Then again, when the swelter hits farther south, when there is barely breath to be found in the heat and humidity, I’ll be reaching for a sweatshirt as the mid-day tide rolls in, nature’s air conditioning bringing incredibly refreshing air. The ocean cools as slowly as it warms and that blessed warmth lasts late into Fall.

It’s just getting through spring that’s the hard part.

# 42 Evidence

Evidence.

Mornings after a storm can offer yet another layer of beauty. The dark cloud bank is receding, moving east over the water, the lines of breaking clouds allowing sun through forming scattered shimmering patches of water.

This morning’s delight is the evidence of shoals, whose locations are marked by breaking white waves far out on the water, waves as white highlighters marking where the underlying seabed rises. Large waves break over these shallows but only when the tide is just right, the moving ebb or flow changing the volume of water over the sea bed lying closer to the surface.

Such large breaking waves, standing out so clearly from the rest of the rolling gray mass, may only be evident in terms of minutes, because tides are constantly moving and the wave break has to be just right. The breaking white lines dance there, not there, then back again, then gone.

The gray sea close to shore is bringing occasional breakers showing off shinning iridescent greens as the waves collapse. Up and down, sound and sight, in irregular rhythms as the biggest waves crash fiercely onto prominent rock outcroppings. The vibrations of the crash shake the house built on the same rock ledge.

It is a morning filled with light, color, and sound with fleeting glimpses of fury. A reason to be up early,

 

Wikipedia entry for “Shoal”:  

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oceanography 

Wikipedia: Wave Shoaling:

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wave_shoaling